Russian state TV ignores poll protests

2011-12-07 20:22

Moscow - Russian state-run television news channels on Wednesday turned a blind eye to post-election protests in Moscow and other cities, leaving internet sites as the only source of blow-by-blow coverage.

On Tuesday evening, as police arrested at least 300 people in a central Moscow square, the country's main news show turned to Angelina Jolie's directorial d├ębut and a Russian woman arrested abroad for faking a $100 bill.

State rolling news channel Rossiya 24 even covered reindeer tagging in the remote northern Yamala region.

Neither made any mention of opposition supporters holding the second mass rally in two days contesting the results of Sunday's parliamentary polls, marked by riot police detaining at least 300 people, according to police.

State-controlled Channel One's newsreader Yekaterina Andreyeva did cover rallies in Moscow, but only official flag-waving ones held by pro-Kremlin youth groups.

"I can't remember a more total news blackout in recent times," television reviewer Arina Borodina told Kommersant FM radio station.

The radio station's political correspondent Stanislav Kucher angrily denounced journalists at state channels in remarks on the station's website.

"You are hiding information from millions of people...," he told them. "In these days you are disgracing yourselves and your profession."

Only foreign protests

Channel One's noon show on Wednesday led on an aeroplane that overshot a runway as it landed. No one was injured.

It also showed Prime Minister Vladimir Putin discussing plans to extend Moscow's Pushkin Museum and an item on radioactive Japanese baby food.

The show did air footage of rioters flinging fire-bombs and helmeted riot police - but that item was filmed in Athens, not in Moscow.

NTV, owned by a subsidiary of state-controlled gas giant Gazprom, ran an item on Tuesday about a rally by "thousands of [pro-Kremlin] Nashi activists, rejoicing at the victory of United Russia".

On Wednesday it ran stories on Israel and Greece as well as Putin striding into the central electoral commission to register his candidacy in March's presidential poll.

But its website did run stories about the protests.

Even state news organisations offered more coverage than the television stations. RIA Novosti news agency won praise for running live coverage of the protest on its website.

A major source of coverage was from new and independent internet television channel Dozhd (Rain).

The channel had a correspondent at the scene from the start of the protest on Tuesday and ran live footage.

Media watchdog unhappy

But a spokesperson for the channel on Wednesday confirmed to AFP that it had received a request from the state media watchdog, although not an official document, requesting recordings of its programming of the last two days.

Asked if this was because of the coverage of riots, she said, "I don't know".

"It's usual, it happens," she said, although she said that Dozhd had never been in this situation before.

The watchdog has powers to withdraw media's licences after issuing two official warnings. Its spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

The channel's reporter Karine Orlova on Tuesday highlighted brutality by riot police.

"Five riot police are just grabbing a single person, dragging and shoving him in," she said. "They just seem to have an order to detain a certain number of people."

She also visited one of the same official United Russia rallies that Channel One had touched on, but had a very different take on it.

"There's very few people," she said. "They were bussed in from Smolensk and Bryansk... they really have no idea what they're doing here."